Note: This blog – the seventh installment in a series on the “Seven Wastes of Muda” as they relate to court document management – deals with the last “O” in TIM WOOD: Over Production.
The second “O” in TIM WOOD (the pneumonic for the Seven Wastes identified by Taichii Ohno in the Toyota Production System) stands for “Overproduction”. My favorite illustration of Overproduction, far predating the advent of computers, is Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. That is the piece from the 1939 classic, Fantasia (which, if you haven’t experienced, you should), where Mickey Mouse, as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, brings a broom to life to haul water for him. The broom, being committed to performing its appointed task endlessly, without regard for whether there is a need for, or indeed any more room for, more water, dutifully keeps hauling it in, flooding the chamber. Overproduction run amuck.
Very simply, Overproduction consists of making more than can be immediately consumed, processed or shipped. In an easy to understand example from the auto manufacturing world, Overproduction shows itself in unsold cars from the previous model year still sitting on lots or in holding areas.
A strong case can be made that, of the Seven Wastes, Overproduction is the worst. Most obviously, Overproduction leads directly to excess Inventory (which, Taichii Ohno aficionados know, is “the root of all evil”). Basically, Overproduction tends to obscure all of the other problems within the business process. The really insidious consequence is that the obscurity, because it provides “safe harbor” from scrutiny and change, is secretly (or not so secretly) welcomed by those comfortable with the status quo.
Court examples abound. Think about lines of people waiting after court to pick up papers, pay, and so forth. Or the stacks of files, prepped, waiting for processing. Or in-boxes with documents waiting to be signed. Think of pre-numbered file folders, the unused portion of which may have to be discarded or re-labeled when the period for which they were prepared has expired before they are used.
The primary reason –there are many causes – for Overproduction is, in my humble opinion, a strikingly clear example of the truism that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions: Almost nothing makes managerial, and taxpayer, blood pressure soar faster than the thought of workers standing idle. Consequently, if you need 20 widgets in an hour, but John the widget maker can produce 25 an hour, “traditional” management would be to have John keep making widgets and cache the extras for a rainy day.
I won’t even start with the math and explanations that conclusively demonstrate that the organization would come out way ahead by making John take a fifteen minute break every hour. Yes; it’s counterintuitive; but true. But leave that aside. The better – and somewhat more satisfying – solution would be to find something else productive for John to do. For courts, that can mean being able to identify and utilize existing resources to accomplish things that budget and staffing cuts have made difficult or impossible to get done in a timely manner.
Other examples of Overproduction endemic to courts abound. Prepping way more files for hearings than will actually be used is a favorite. Sending multiple notices of the same thing. Sending the same notice to one attorney who represents more than one party to a case. Printing an entire file, when only one or two documents are used. And on and on.
In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, when Mickey finally awakens to the fact that his broom – now multiplied hundreds of times – is Overproducing out of control, Mickey’s Sorcerer intercedes and blows the mess away. In the posts following the completion of this series, we’ll see why, for courts, the Sorcerer is ECM with configurable workflow, with the capability to blow the mess away.